Posted in: Android, Mobile phones

Lava XOLO X900 Preview

It’s not always we get to use a smartphone that has an Intel processor inside so when we got the opportunity, we jumped on it. For those who are not aware, the Lava XOLO X900 is the first phone in the world to use an Intel processor and its x86 architecture, and is on sale right now in India. Meanwhile, another version of this phone called the Orange San Diego is now making its way to shops in Europe and this is just the beginning as you’ll be seeing a lot more devices running an Intel processor by the end of this year.

But all that for later. For now, catch us after the break for a quick preview of the world’s first smartphone with Intel inside.

Design

The design of the Lava XOLO X900 is virtually identical to the Intel FFRD (Form Factor Reference Design) that we first saw back in December 2011. It seemed fine for a reference design but looks quite bland when seen on a retail product. The X900 looks simple to the point of being boring and it won’t be winning any beauty contests. Build quality isn’t particularly impressive either and the all-plastic body tends to creak a bit when held tightly.

Going around the device we see the 4.03-inch display up front with the earpiece, front facing camera and various sensors on top above and the four control keys below. On the right are the volume control keys, microSIM tray, camera shutter button and the right stereo speaker. On the left are a microHDMI port and the left stereo speaker. On top is the power/sleep button with the headphone jack and on the bottom is a microUSB port. On the back are an 8 megapixel sensor with LED flash and a secondary microphone.

You can remove the cover on the back, but there is no reason you would need to. You can access the battery underneath but it is attached using cables instead of contact points so it’s not user replaceable.

The X900 is a long phone and the display is placed near the top so you need to adjust your grip to be able to reach its upper portion comfortably. The power button on top is placed somewhat inconveniently and is hard to use at times.

Display

The Lava XOLO X900 uses a 4.03-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 1,024 x 600 pixels and Gorilla Glass coating. Quality-wise, the display is nothing special. The colors are muted, the brightness and contrast are average and the image distorts when seen off angle.

The display refresh rate also doesn’t seem to be very high, which leads to noticeable motion blur in some games. The only redeeming aspect about this display is its resolution, which coupled with the relatively small 4-inch size gives it an impressive 295 PPI pixel density. This makes things look tack sharp, but also very small at times.

The OS doesn’t seem to have been optimized for this pixel density and you’ll notice everything on this phone looks generally smaller than on other phones. On the homescreen, for example, you will see the same number of icons as on other phones but they are all small and spaced out. Things should be looking much better when the Android 4.0 upgrade arrives, as Ice Cream Sandwich has HD as its native resolution.

Performance

The Lava XOLO X900 runs on Intel’s Medfield platform. The SoC on this phone is the Atom Z2460, also known as Penwell. It consists of the single-core 1.6GHz Saltwell CPU and the PowerVR SGX540 GPU, clocked at 400MHz. Then there’s also 1GB of dual-channel LPDDR2 memory and 16GB storage space (non-expandable). The X900 runs on Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread.

If you think that a multi-core CPU is a must for great performance, you are in for a surprise. Looking purely at benchmark scores, the Atom processor on the X900 does very well, beating most dual-core competitors and even scores a few points against the quad-core processor inside NVIDIA Tegra 3.


BenchmarkPi

Lower is better

  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    279
  • HTC One S
    306
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    338
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    344
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    408
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    452
  • Sony Xperia S
    536
  • HTC Sensation XE
    583
  • Lava XOLO X900
    632

Linpack

Higher is better

  • HTC One S
    210
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    196
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    177.1
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    126.1
  • Lava XOLO X900
    96.1
  • Sony Xperia S
    86.4
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    77.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    77.1
  • HTC Sensation XE
    50.4

Quadrant

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    5365
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    5146
  • HTC One S
    5047
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    4842
  • Lava XOLO X900
    4053
  • Sony Xperia S
    3173
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    3053
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    2316

NenaMark 2

Higher is better

  • HTC One S
    60.5
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    58.8
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    51.6
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    49.1
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    47.5
  • Sony Xperia S
    37.5
  • Lava XOLO X900
    36.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    24
  • HTC Sensation XE
    23

GLBenchmark Egypt (offscreen 720p)

Higher is better

  • New Apple iPad
    140
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    103
  • Apple iPad 2
    90
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    73
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    63
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    62
  • HTC One S
    56
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    55.7
  • Lava XOLO X900
    28

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Lava XOLO X900
    1413.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1447
  • HTC One S
    1708
  • New Apple iPad
    1722
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    1757
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    1834
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    1849
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    1863
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2217
  • Sony Xperia S
    2587
  • HTC Sensation XE
    4404

BrowserMark

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    169811
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    111853
  • Lava XOLO X900
    104563
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    103591
  • New Apple iPad
    103264
  • HTC One S
    98435
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    96803
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    92232
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    88725
  • Sony Xperia S
    74990
  • HTC Sensation XE
    72498

When perforimng day to day activities, the phone feels very fast, and this despite the fact that it is running Gingerbread. We can’t even imagine how good this phone will become once it gets the Android 4.0 update. The only chink in Intel’s armor right now is the PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. It’s a fairly old GPU that struggles to keep up with its younger rivals in benchmarks. And although it has no problems running today’s games it won’t age as well as the others.

One of the things we liked about the X900 was that it was running an almost stock version of Gingerbread. The only noticeable modifications are the presence of the power widget that has been placed in the notification tray to quickly toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. There are also a bunch of wallpapers, a XOLO Care app and the DoubleTwist player comes built-in but otherwise it is pretty much pure Gingerbread. We hope the upcoming Android 4.0 update also remains this way.

The Intel Atom processor runs on Intel’s x86 architecture. This means that not all apps on the Play Store are compatible with this processor right now. Only apps that use Android’s Dalvik VM are compatible as of now. Thankfully, that includes the vast majority of the apps on the official repository. The rest are the NDK (Native Development Kit) apps that are designed specifically for ARM processors.

These won’t run as-is but will require minor modifications to be compatible with Intel’s architecture.

In our testing, most apps ran just fine. Others, mostly games such as Shadowgun showed up as incompatible. There was also a small percentage of apps that did install but later crashed upon launch (Dead Space) or had problems with the visuals (EDGE). As time passes and more devices with Intel processors come out this issue should get resolved. One thing to note is that although Adobe Flash Player shows up as incompatible on the Play Store the phone does have it built into the OS.

The 8 megapixel camera on the back produced some fairly unremarkable shots. Despite the high resolution sensor, the images have a soft look with fuzzy details. The colors and contrast levels are also not up to the mark. The 1080p videos look better but the field of view is significantly low at this resolution. Overall, the camera performance is not terrible but we have definitely seen better.

Battery Life

The Lava XOLO X900 has a 1,460mAh non-removable battery. Keeping that in mind, the battery life on this phone needs to be good. Turns out, it’s not spectacular but it’s not terrible either. We consistently got a day of battery life on a single charge from the phone with normal use. With heavy usage consisting of gaming or web browsing, the battery lasts for around six hours. We also managed to get four and a half hours while playing a 720p video on loop.

Conclusion

The Lava XOLO X900 is on sale in India right now for ₹ 22,000 ($393) unlocked and without a contract. That’s not a bad price at all, especially considering the performance of the Intel Atom processor. Unfortunately, the rest of the phone does not stack up quite as well in comparison. We would definitely like to see this chip being used in better hardware. Things also need to improve on the software front, with Android 4.0 being the highest priority right now, along with improved support for third part apps.

The price is the biggest point in the X900’s favor right now and you will get a lot of bang for your buck. If you are in the market for an Android smartphone in this price range, the Lava XOLO X900 is definitely worth a look.

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